Plaudits: Washington City Paper's Young and Hungry's Top 50 Restaurants
Neighborhood: H Street NE
For Official Friend of DCWD's Red's birthday, she had her choice of restaurants. But nothing could be the allure of mussels and Belgian beer, so along with Official Friends of DCWD Baboon and G and a number of Red's family and family friends, we trekked out to Granville Moore's.
Granville Moore's is the very definition of a hole-in-the-wall neighborhood pub. Sitting in a converted townhouse in the middle of the reinvented Atlas District on H Street NE, it's always dark inside. Dank wouldn't be the right word to describe it, but it wouldn't be far off. Still, there's a charm to the restaurant and its straightforwardness: the wood-paneled everything, the scrawled chalkboard special list, the exposed ceiling beams, the peeling paint and the chipped away brick, and the decidedly unfinicky furniture. The vibe is friendly and jovial; I've never had anything but great service there (then again, the only times I've been, I've been with people who could be considered regulars). It's a neighborhood place.
The townhouse is split into two levels, both with bars that take up half the room. The rest of the seating is a motley assortment of two tops and row booths with pew seating. They don't take reservations, and so it's really the Wild West in terms of getting a table. Moreover I've never seen it anything less than crowded and loud after 7pm (and on this particular visit, I spent six hours there).
Like I mentioned before, there are two strong reasons to go to Granville Moore's: the beer and the mussels. Beer first. Granville Moore's has one of the most extensive lists of Belgian beers, and I have a particular soft spot for them. The night got out of control really quickly, so my discerning nature in choosing and evaluating beer probably can't be trusted after a certain point, but here's what I do remember from the night. My first beer was a La Chouffe, a light smooth beer with a nice hint of banana (though once again, when G walked in and saw me drinking me it, she made fun of my knack for drinking girly beers).
The other two that I had were the Witkap Pater Single, and the Brother Thelonius Abbey Ale. The former was another light blonde beer, with a taste of golden raisin, and was pleasant enough. But the winner of the night was the Thelonius; I loved it so much I had two. Coming in at a 9.3% ABV, it has a rich dark taste reminiscent of chocolate.
As for the mussels, they are simply sublime. Between the four of us, we ordered three bowls of mussels: the Moules Fromage Bleu (bacon, Hook's blue cheese, shallots, spinach, white wine, lemon juice), the Moules Navigateur (coconut milk, serranos, onion, garlic), and the Moules Moroccan (beer poached fennel, lamb sausage, curry cream sauce). We all differed on the winner of the night, with me weighing in favor of Moroccan, and Red and G going for the Navigateur (then again, it's like picking which one of your children you love the most). Both the Moroccan and the Navigateur were brilliantly creamy, and just the right amount of spicy, though one was Middle Eastern and the other Thai in flavor. Even the third set of mussels was transcendent (especially when, as Baboon pointed out, you got a chunk of bacon or spinach with your mussel). And as I've said before, soaking bread in the mussel sauce is one of the best simple pleasures, and a way to enjoy more food even after the mussels are gone. Amazing.
Eating mussels has to go hand-in-hand with frites. By this metric, the fries were good, crispy though not the best I've had. The highlight though is the variety of sauces that Granville Moore's provides: truffle aioli, horseradish creme, homemade hot sauce, curry mayo, chipotle mayo, morney sauce, garlic ranch, and chipotle BBQ. They were fantastic.
It's hard to weigh the restaurant's vibe fairly; if your date's a low-key unfinicky indie type, this is perfect. But this blog's scale (and frankly the authors' personalities) is much more slanted to the conventionally romantic, so we'll have to give it the cursory two hearts with the strong strong caveat that if, like me, you harbor a soft spot for Hipster Wife Hunting, it'd be more like 3/3.5 hearts. As for the food, which is the more important part anyway, it's best to compare it to its analogous Brasserie Beck: the mussels are slightly better, the fries are on par. So it earns the same star rating, but gets a slight nod from me as the better food stop. Seriously, the mussels. Wow.
Food Rating: **** (out of 5)
Date Rating: 2 Hearts (out of 5)
Dress Code: Casual
Bar Rating: Hipster Hangout
Cost: $$ (out of 5) ($25-$50 for two)
Pairing: Palace of Wonders, the vaudeville burlesque show and artifacts museum, is right on the same block. I've never been, but everything I've heard about makes it seem perfect for this low-key date night ("It's something alright."). Tickets are usually $10.